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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins training camp is intense. There are added responsibilities throughout the organization and a focus directed at the 68 players in a fierce battle for NHL jobs.

However, the Penguins won’t overlook what’s really important – taking care of those in need.

On Saturday at Mellon Arena, the Penguins raised $26,700 to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast region through various autograph sessions during the team’s training camp tournament and practices.

“To me that’s great. It’s a little thing and hopefully that is going to help a lot,” Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said. “We, meaning the American public, can’t forget – we need to continue to support them because we are always the first to help other people outside of the country, but we need to help our people now.”

Individual autograph sessions included Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux. Tickets for those sessions were $40. Two group autograph sessions were held featuring Mark Recchi, Rico Fata, Marc-Andre Fleury and Sergei Gonchar in one group and Jocelyn Thibault, Ryan Malone, Ziggy Palffy and Dick Tarnstrom in the other. Fans could purchase tickets to those sessions for $20 per group. In addition, the Penguins raffled off a team-autographed hockey stick.

All proceeds will be donated to The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army for disaster relief efforts along the Gulf Coast.

“We have our own pressure in our little world here,” Olczyk said. “Let’s make it perfectly clear – there’s nothing like the pressure that the Gulf has been under or people fighting for our freedom over in Iraq, policemen, firemen and even being a parent is pressure. I think our players certainly know that and understand that we are in the entertainment business and whatever we can do, no matter how small or how big, we want to give back and help people. We need to reach out to people in need.

“For the Penguins to do this, it doesn’t surprise me. It just shows how much of a first-class organization it is.”

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